Tommy Barker is blown away by this spectacularly set, architect-designed, no-expense spared home.
Corafinne, Scilly, Kinsale, Co Cork
Size: 282 sq m (3,035 sq m) (0.3 acre)
Best feature: Wow!
Pictures: Jakub Walutek
CORK people sometimes tend to take Kinsale for granted, with familiarity breeding a sort of passive or even a begruding content.
But, if you visit for the first time, or revisit after years’ of absence, it can blow you away.
The historic town’s quaint, yet bang up to date, and international in its outlook and attractions.
The harbour setting and views are enthralling too, with a few select, high-up amphitheatre-like sites and settings, from which to behold the natural beauty and every-changing water activity.
Then, add in the marinas, the restaurants and bars, shops, cafes and bookshops, the beaches and the wildness and cachet of the Old Head Golf Club, and really, Kinsale can be quite the show-stopper.
That ‘blown away’ response is what happened to the couple who built this spectacularly-set, architecturally-designed and clearly no-expense spared, one-off family holiday home called Corafinne, in one of Kinsale’s most atmospheric settings, in any case.
One of uber-contemporary and high-tech Corafinne’s owners is Cork born, but has been living and working abroad for decades.
He recalls being in his UK office back in 2004 “when a friend of mine popped in to ask me if I would like to join him and a couple of guys in a trip to Old Head and play golf.
I was puzzled and asked him Old Head where? And he responded the ‘Old Head of Kinsale’
“All I remember as a child of the Old Head is the cliffs, the fields and cows, and of course Garrettstown strand. I agreed to go, as it was just a quick hop to Cork and a 30-minute drive to Old Head.
“Well, I was amazed how a spectacular course could exist in such an exposed location. We stayed in Kinsale and had a wonderful time. That trip evoked lots of very fond memories of the place in times gone by.
"I was convinced one day we would buy a house in Kinsale and retire to there and I would join Old Head Golf Links,” he says of the moment when a plan started to fall into place.
Shortly afterwards, his wife visited Kinsale with her sisters, and was equally smitten. By 2009, with hopesof semi-retirement, they went on a property/site hunt, with locally-based estate agent Ron Kruger of Engle & Volkers helping in the search.
He linked them to a precious 0.3 acre site he was selling at Scilly Hill, below the Spaniard bar, in a sublime setting, which already had planning in place for the glorious, high-end and drink-in-the-views house displayed here, and they were smitten all over again.
It all started to fall all the more into place, and into their laps.
They bought in 2011, and started on site in 2012, with acclaimed designer Pat O’Sullivan of Kiosk Architects coming on board as project mangers to deliver their initial vision.
Contractors Rose Construction did the precise and challenging work and fit-out, all to the highest standards, on a sloping, walled-in site which had been part of the grounds of a period home above on the Scilly-Ardbrack road.
(Kiosk Architects and Rose Construction have become almost a familiar pairing in the past decade across Cork and beyond, with many spectacular builds to their joint credits.)
“We had loved the modern design by the architects and after a number of tweaks, to suit our needs, in 2012 we started building. We were living in London still and could only make it over once a month.
"The build — although complicated given the location — went very well. We went for a fixed price contract, and after 14 months in February 2014 we received the keys....two months early!” the owners recount.
Kiosk’s design approach was to retain the existing stone wall boundary wending through the heart of Scilly, and to tuck the house behind it, in a way that reacted to the sloping profile of the site, with access points top and bottom, while taking maximum advantage of the site’s coastal location and its panoramic views across Kinsale harbour.
The vista spans the Scilly Walk and Ardbrack to the left, right out to Summercove and Charles Fort; the mid view is over to St James Fort at Castlepark, and to the right are stacked views of Kinsale town, Compass Hill, the River Bandon estuary, pier and marinas, and a multitude of masts. As well as water, water everywhere.
Corafinne’s build cost, and its site cost, aren’t commented upon, but it’s likely the site sold for between €750,0000 and €1m back in 2013, and the 3,000 sq ft build and finish to this sort of level, plus the landscaping, would surely have far surpassed that again.
Since its 2014 completion, it has been used and savoured by the family, more than living up to their hopes for it, and has been superbly maintained in the few years since, both in their presence and absence.
“We absolutely love Corafinne and still get excited every time we arrive. Its position in the harbour and the stunning views — no matter the weather — draw us in and we never want to leave,” they enthuse.
But, then they explain “our intention was to settle in Kinsale and live there full time, or at the least nine months of the year. We have decided to sell since our time in Kinsale is more limited than we originally envisaged: and, new business ventures mean that this will be case for some time in the future.”
So, Corafinne is up for sale, going on the open and very much international market this weekend with Ron Kruger of Engel & Volkers in Kinsale.
Having sold the site with drawings, and seeing it all come exactly to fruition, he says “it’s everything it had the promise to be, it’s exquisite and definitely one of the best properties in Kinsale.”
The neighbourhood into which it was seemingly seamlessly insinuated is pretty aloof and exclusive: the Price Register shows eight properties in the lofty Ardbrack section fringing Kinsale harbour’s sweep out to sea making in excess of €1m since 2010, and one, Fastnet House sold in 2013 for over €3m, on several acres.
Since then, there’s been a few more homes built to similar standards as Fastnet, but more likely on lesser grounds, and some houses have sold for close to €1m, only to be knocked for site value, continuing a trend ongoing in Ardbrack since the 1980s.
Right now, the hillside at Ardbrack is part sightseeing nirvana, and part site-seeing, with several more multimillion euro one-offs under construction.
Fine Gael’s election slogan last year, ‘Keep the Recovery Going’ may have irked half the country who said they hadn’t felt any recovery and that it was all Dublin and city-based. Well, the recovery was ahead of the posse in Kinsale, and it is positively booming.
As well as Ardbrack, Compass Hill and some general Kinsale addresses, there’s also a few Scilly addresses turning up on the Price Register, at €1m plus, but transactions are generally more limited, and sites are even harder to obtain.
Quite typically, given that Scilly and the Scilly dam is where the humble fishermen’s cottages traditionally were clustered, higgledly piggledy, many properties and sites are tiny.
That’s not the case here at the 3,000 sq ft Corafinne. Its 0.3 of a Scilly acre is very rare, gratis of once being part of the walled grounds of a big, period and primely-set property behind and above it, and its grounds are landscaped to within an inch of clipped grass height, with lush side garden complete with decking, sculpture, water feature, bespoke seating, lighting, wiring for sound, CCTV and more. Plus there’s a sheltered courtyard entrance to the north, which basks in the evening sun.
Beneath, the grounds allow for a quite spacious parking/turning gravelled area, behind a wide electric gate accessed from the Kinsale end of the Scilly Walk.
Despite having so much glass and floor-to-ceiling glazing across its southern facade, on two levels, there’s a surprising amount of privacy for whoever is in and about Corafinne.
It’s a bit of a show-stopper when people are wallking along the very popular shoreline and wooded Scilly Walk — expect to see strollers stop and stare for a bit.
Can a house be both flashy and understated at the same time? It sounds like, a paradox, but Corafinne pulls it off.
It has elan and a lot of flash, without being brash, with a touch of the stealth bomber to it, thanks to all its dark zinc cladding, assymetric low-pitch roof profiles going off in opposite
TBC Best Feature: Wow!
directions, and shades of dark greys on the facade and glazing.
Surely we’ll know when a whole new architectural epoch has started, when grey is no longer the default colour for the profession!
The budget to build was pretty unstinting, and the essential structure is concrete and steel, on a scooped out site, with geothermal heat pump and underfloor heating, along with Cregg natural stone floors, oak floors, and even a glass-floored walkway on the upper level’s hall, while fine-grained oak planking is used in many sections as surface and wall cladding.
There’s seeminly acres of costly zinc on the roof and angled upper sections, with two feature-tall windows — one in the living room, the other in the kitchen.
Elsewhere there are roof lights along the central spine to draw light into the core and corridor.
Windows are triple glazed, by Schuco, and despite the enormous weight of the several floor-to ceiling sliders, they slide back at a mere touch, with safety catches on the return closing trip to make sure when they are being shut they don’t crush anything.
Rolled up out of sight are electrically controlled blinds, ready to slide down at the touch of another switch, and the house is specially wired so that when leaving, one control brings down all the blinds, turns off all the lights, other items go into sleep mode, and the alarm goes on.
Also handily controllable is the metal roof section
over the house’s mid-section terrace. This deep terrace with sliders to the kitchen/dining, the hall, and the living room, can be sheltered from the rain and inclement weather by a series of hinged slats forming a roof. When the sun and light is wanted, they hinge upright to let it in.
It’s just one of a number of ‘James Bond’ gizmos, yet with practical purpose, and allied to it all is programmable lighting and mood lighting throughout, switches that work at a touch, not a noisy ‘click’, top lighting fittings, and the enormous TV can be made disappear from view with a retractable sliding cover.
In an opposite, revelatory movement, in the sleek German-engineered LKW kitchen (via the company’s London Canary Wharf showroom) and its catalogue of Siemens appliances and its enormous island is the pop-up extractor. It hides out of view, within the island, and glides up at the touch of a button to work its whiff-banishing magic.
It’s a feature seen now in some mid and up-market kitchens, so at least some others among us can keep up with one or two bits of the bang-on smart home trends on show here.
Other tech-touches that are included are the heat-recovery ventilation, as part of the underfloor geothermal set-up, with all rooms individually and remotely controllable for temperature and comfort.
Agents Engel & Volkers describe the floaty, open-tread hardwood and glass-balustered stairs as bespoke, and Corafinne has its four en suite bedrooms split over the house’s two levels.
Essentially an ‘upside down’ layout, it has its master bedroom up on the first floor, towards the back, with views south and east, with external deck and garden access from one end. It’s private, and plush yet minimalist, with slide-away storage, top bathroom suites, with Noken Porcelanosa sanitary ware.
It includes a free standing double-ended bath, a separate WC, and an enormous shower enclosure, large enough to house and douse a Kinsale Sevens visiting team...not that they’d be let near a place as pitch-perfect as this des-res.
The three other, ground floor bedrooms are also en suite, with similar Noken Porcelenosa sanitary ware and low-key, luxury tiling that’s not going to date.
All three bedrooms get south-facing harbour views and the end one to the east has lower garden access.
Also down at this lower level (it’s the main entry point if arriving by car) is a lobby, lower hall, a comms rooms with industrial-grade wiring box, a guest WC, and a double width, temperature-controlled wine cabinet for hundreds of bottles of red and white.
Back on the main upper level, it’s again all about the views, though the interior finishes come a close second in terms of admiration and visual (and, tactile) appreciation.
The main sitting room is 27’ across and 12’ deep, floored with Cregg stone, and has its gas fire and TV entertainment system on the interior wall, so as not to conflict with the scene-stealers outside.
There’s also the sheltered balcony mid-ships terrace, while the family/dining section by the kitchen is triple aspect and, again, all draw is to the windows and Scilly land and waters beyond (and, you know you’re at the water’s edge when seagulls seem unable to avoid spattering the windows with their guano as they wheel and turn.
Done to the same standard as the build is the mature, walled and landscaped garden, done by Schull-based Lars Buelb, originally from Germany. City-based landscaper John Butler is on contract to keep it groomed, to a standard that wouldn’t be out of place on a green at the Old Head of Kinsale Golf Course.
Which is where we came in, and which caused Corafinne to come into existence, yes?
VERDICT: Dearest Munster non-country home home launch of 2017 at €2.75m — and it’s spectacular. It’s just a short walk to Kinsale town centre, yet is almost a private, aloof world away. May not even be around too long.